Like many programs, Worcester Connects was impacted by the Mid-March COVID-19 State of Emergency shut-down. The Worcester Connects program vendor, Worcester Youth and Family, was unable to meet face to face with mentees and mentors; and mentors were unable to meet face to face with mentees. Virtual outreach, meetings and trainings were still conducted, but the inability to meet face to face with youth hindered their enrollment.
Worcester Connects is a new program for FY2020. During the NOFA planning process for programs in FY20, the Board of Directors voted to put all programs funded by the LMB out for bid through the RFP process. Worcester County LMB is a branch with in the Worcester County Government, and therefore, must abide by the policies and procedures related to procurement. Once funds were approved and allocated for FY20, the LMB released the RFP for the Worcester Connects program on July 2, 2019. Interested program vendors were asked to submit their proposal to Worcester County Administration on August 12, 2019. Third party evaluators reviewed each proposal on August 19, 2019. On September 3, 2019, with the support of the Board of Directors, the LMB Staff presented who the chosen vendors were to the Worcester County Commissioners. Selected program vendors were notified on September 6, 2019, and were expected to be ready to implement the program on October 11, 2019.
Worcester Youth and Family was the chosen vendor to provide the Worcester Connects program in Worcester County. They began to develop their program once notified in September. The Worcester Connects program is a mentoring program based on the Check and Connect program model. The program serves youth in grades 6-12, who are at high risk for truancy and bullying. Worcester Connects provides a comprehensive screening, including utilizing the BERs Scale to track improvement in school functioning and intrapersonal strength.
Worcester Connects also utilizes volunteer mentors to provide mentoring services to the mentees. The volunteers undergo background checks and trainings in order to ensure that they are a good fit for mentees.
Worcester Youth and Family, and the Worcester Connects program developed a robust and specifically targeted outreach plan for not only youth but volunteers as well.
A flyer, brochure and facts sheet was developed for Worcester Connects and was used in promotional and recruitment events throughout Worcester County. There were 15 outreach meetings/events held in various locations, including the schools, faith based organizations, recreational halls and state agencies.
Additionally, Worcester Youth and Family also promoted the Worcester Connects program through their monthly newsletter, which is sent to the area Chambers of Commerce, businesses, patrons, and partners.